How and why to use mulch for mulching

Mulching your beds has more benefits than just looking nice! Mulching helps your beds retain moisture which reduces how much you need to water. Also, as natural mulches break down, they can add nutrients to your soil. Plus, mulch also does great at weed prevention (and does even better when used with a weed barrier fabric!) And if all that hard work wasn't enough, it goes even further by giving your beds a lovely finished look.

Most people that garden, whether it be a single rose bush or a half-acre of vegetables, are familiar with mulch. According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary mulch is “a protective covering spread or left on the ground to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds, enrich the soil, or keep fruit clean””.

Great. now that we know what mulch “does”, what exactly is it? Mulch can be one of many things as long as it serves the purpose listed above. When most people think of mulch they think of wood chips, but there are many more ways to mulch than one. Let’s look at a few different types, starting with:

1. Wood chips: It is a popular mulch because of its neat appearance, as well as its hardiness.

2. Leaves: Leaves can be found anywhere and chances are good people will just hand them over for free. Leaves should be dry before being put down and should be applied in 4″ thicknesses.

3. Black plastic: Black plastic sheeting can be found in any department store with a gardening section, or a garden center itself. You should cut slits in the plastic to let water in. This mulch also draws heat into the ground as well as keeps it there, warming the soil.

4. Compost: You can use your kitchen scraps and it makes an excellent mulch, as it also adds nutrients to the soil while it keeps weeds from growing.

5. Hay: Many farmers are willing to part with spoiled or rotten hay, which serves as a great mulch when applied in

6″ thickness.

6. Seaweed: If you live near the ocean, or know someone who does, seaweed is an excellent mulch as it is rich in elements and some minerals. Dry it before using.

Whatever form of mulch you choose (and this is in no way an extensive list, only some examples), you should put it on the garden as soon as the ground has warmed up. When your growing season is over, till the mulch directly back into the ground.

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